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Issue 11, 2018
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Transfer of assembled collagen fibrils to flexible substrates for mechanically tunable contact guidance cues

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Contact guidance or bidirectional migration along aligned fibers modulates many physiological and pathological processes such as wound healing and cancer invasion. Aligned 2D collagen fibrils epitaxially grown on mica substrates replicate many features of contact guidance seen in aligned 3D collagen fiber networks. However, these 2D collagen self-assembled substrates are difficult to image through, do not have known or tunable mechanical properties and cells degrade and mechanically detach collagen fibrils from the surface, leading to an inability to assess contact guidance over long times. Here, we describe the transfer of aligned collagen fibrils from mica substrates to three different functionalized target substrates: glass, polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) and polyacrylamide (PA). Aligned collagen fibrils can be efficiently transferred to all three substrates. This transfer resulted in substrates that were to varying degrees resistant to cell-mediated collagen fibril deformation that resulted in detachment of the collagen fibril field, allowing for contact guidance to be observed over longer time periods. On these transferred substrates, cell speed is lowest on softer contact guidance cues for both MDA-MB-231 and MTLn3 cells. Intermediate stiffness resulted in the fastest migration. MTLn3 cell directionality was low on soft contact guidance cues, whereas MDA-MB-231 cell directionality marginally increased. It appears that the stiffness of the contact guidance cue regulates contact guidance differently between cell types. The development of this collagen fibril transfer method allows for the attachment of aligned collagen fibrils on substrates, particularly flexible substrates, that do not normally promote aligned collagen fibril growth, increasing the utility of this collagen self-assembly system for the fundamental examination of mechanical regulation of contact guidance.

Graphical abstract: Transfer of assembled collagen fibrils to flexible substrates for mechanically tunable contact guidance cues

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Supplementary files

Publication details

The article was received on 27 Jul 2018, accepted on 03 Oct 2018 and first published on 15 Oct 2018

Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C8IB00127H
Citation: Integr. Biol., 2018,10, 705-718

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